With my move to Dartmoor happening in a few weeks time, it seemed sensible to take advantage of temporarily living in Bristol to pop into Wales for a hike. On Saturday, Sarah (@PascallSarah) and I left a foggy Bristol (the view was non existent from the old Severn bridge) heading towards the surprising near Brecon Beacons to walk one of my favourite walks in ‘waterfall country’.
Fog on the old Severn bridge
Surprisingly near it might be, but unfortunately, after leaving a little later than planned, we hit bad traffic on the Welsh side of the M4 (World Cup rugby traffic) and it was not until midday that we finally set off on foot from the car park at Ystradfellte . The walk, which I entered (and won first prize!) in a ‘best walks in UK’ competition, is a stunning and varied ‘waterfall-fest’ following Afon Mellte downstream then, after a pint, following Afon Nedd Fechan upstream, before following a lovely track back across to the car park.
All photos on this blog post were taken by Sarah, who kindly acted as photographer after my phone suffered a catastrophic and ultimately fatal fall in the morning before we left. Without my phone, I was also unable to record a detailed track (and my SPOT struggled in the trees), but we followed the same route I originally walked back in 2011 (which you can view on Social Hiking or read the original write up)
As we made our way to the first waterfall, I have to admit to forgetting how difficult the terrain was – in my original blog post I mentioned the ‘twisted gnarled roots’ but that does somewhat underplay the difficulty, and we regretted not having walking poles to aid our balance as we clambered along the ‘path’. Especially difficult was the scrabble down from Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn, which had a group of gorge walkers slowly appearing from behind the curtain of water.
Below Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn is a plunge pool that was the location of my first proper wild swim. Looking at it again a few years (and a few swims) later and it is not a bad swimming spot at all, although not as impressive or as large as the location I had planned later in the day. Next up was Sgwd y Pannwr and an opportunity to adopt my usual pose for Kate’s (@divescidiva) benefit before the slog up the hill.
As we reached the top of the hill and the turn back down to Sgwd yr Eira, we hit the back of a large group of school children heading in the same direction. Sgwd yr Eira is the waterfall you can walk behind so, expecting a queue, we took the sensible decision to stop for lunch. Unfortunately not long enough as, when we arrived at the waterfall, there was still a crowd behind the water. After waiting a polite amount of time and knowing we still had a long way to walk, we risked life and limb to get past the horde and through the waterfall to continue on the path back up the other side.
Once at the top of the climb from the waterfall, our tree lined route followed the valley below us. We briefly stopped and chatted with a couple of men who were taking advantage of their respective wives having a ‘girly’ weekend in London to get out and enjoy the outdoors. It was a bit ironic that they were from a few miles of where I have just moved from in Northamptonshire! Once again this part of the walk was a very pleasant interlude from all the waterfalls, but soon we were dropping down to Pontneddfechan and The Angel pub.
Refreshed from a pint of locally brewed ale (Rhymney Bitter) and second lunch (and only slightly disappointed that the pub sign I remembered had been replaced by a rather dull modern version), we took the path up the Afon Nedd Fechan valley. The path was much easier going under foot and in no time we reached the viewing point for Sgwd Gwladus. Back in 2011, I had been really jealous of the two people swimming in this plunge pool (well standing knee deep complaining how cold it was!) – now it was my turn!
It was cold…. very cold… but as usually once you are in and the initial wave of cold-pain eases it actually felt quite warm. After a little bit of bobbing about, we did a few lengths of the pool (well Sarah did – half lengths for me!), before trying out mother nature’s power shower! It was exhilarating albeit ice cream headache inducing! Just before getting out to warm up with some coffee, we were joined by three other swimmers – one of whom who showed us all how it was done by just diving straight into the cold water!
Clothed, coffee-ed and warmed, we continue our walk upstream past a few more fantastic waterfalls (as well as the same group of school children!) At the picnic site at Pont Melin-fach we continued upstream on a quieter path (with those ‘twisted gnarled roots’ again) before taking a restricted byway and old bridleway back to the car park. This last stage is different again to the rest of the walk – the sunken tracks are lined with a variety of species of trees and shrubs, and there are some fantastic views North towards the higher ground of Brecon Beacons.
This really is a fantastic varied hike and still deserves it’s number one spot (despite not being on Dartmoor or the total lack of Tors). Well worth a visit! We celebrate a lovely day outdoors with a dinner at McDonalds (it was going to be a Beefeater, but it was fully booked… for a wedding…….!!)
I would also once again like to thank surfnslide, who originally shared the route on his blog and inspired me to pay the area a visit in the first place.